There are many wonderful beaches in the Cheticamp area. Cheticamp beach itself is a lovely sandy/rocky coast that is sheltered from the open water. It has a sand bar close to shore which makes it easy to walk out quite far, even with the kids. There are sometimes jellyfish, but we were lucky to avoid them all this year. It’s close to town, so we spent several lovely afternoons enjoying the sun and warm water – well, warm for the north Atlantic at about 20 degrees or so (celsius).
We also took a special trip over to the western coast of Cape Breton to visit Black Brook beach. This is another little sheltered bay where a waterfall/brook meets the ocean. The waves were perfect – not too big, not too small. And there was a great rock cliff to climb and look out over the beach. We whiled away the afternoon jumping in waves, building castles, and hunting lobsters (but not catching them!). It was lovely.
One of the first things we did upon arrival in Cape Breton was head out on a zodiac whale watching tour in an area called Pleasant Bay.
This is quickly becoming my favourite tradition in Nova Scotia, since this was now our second time going out on such a tour. There are two types of whale watching tours: the regular tour takes you out on a fishing boat and boasts a slightly easier ride but doesn’t get as close to the action. On the other hand, zodiacs are basically inflatable rafts with benches, so you just hold on and hope you don’t go flying off as you skim across the water. But you also get right up close to the whale pods, since the craft isn’t as intrusive or dangerous. Oh, and it’s lots of fun!
The day we went out was quite clear, and we were expecting a fairly smooth trip. Out on the water was another story – although the waves didn’t appear very large, once you’re travelling over them at 30 knots (I’m totally guessing at the speed here… how the heck do you calculate knots anyway?), waves even a foot or two high were sending the zodiac flying.
We headed out with a group of about ten (B and I, plus his brother and wife and a few other vacationers), first sailing straight out about 5 miles off the coast. We didn’t have much luck there, and frankly I couldn’t tell the difference between a whale and a wave anyway, so I was never sure whether to be continually excited or continually disappointed. Luckily a sister ship soon radioed in the whales’ location closer to shore, so off we went.
We first spotted the whales breaching right next to the other boat, a group of what looked like about 20 pilot whales. The captain pulled us in a bit closer to their path and we waited for them to swim in our direction. A few minutes later, they appeared. It was a group of mostly cows and babies, and there must have been at least 50 of them! They swam right up next to us in little groups of 3 or 4, babies alongside. I probably could have touched one or two of them, they were so close. I had to fight the urge to just jump in there and grab on for a ride! The pod seemed to be swimming around and feeding in the area, so they weren’t in a rush to leave. We followed them for at least 20 minutes, watching them dive deep and then surface a hundred meters away then return to us. It was magical.
Here are a few (rather shaky) videos!
Eventually we let them move on and we started back to the marina. The return trip was into the wind, so as you can imagine, the waves were quite a bit rougher on us! We were getting air of at least 2 metres at times, which was exhilarating and little bit painful… But the chorus of groans from us travellers just made it hilarious, and we were all killing ourselves laughing as we all got soaked and slammed around on the waves.
The ride back followed the coastline, where we caught glimpses of a few seals and a lot of majestic cliffs and wilderness. We tried to take pictures, but they all turned out crooked!
All in all, it was great, and I can’t wait to do it again next time.
The real vacation part of our vacation started in Chéticamp, Nova Scotia, where B’s maternal family comes from and where they still keep a family cottage. B’s mom, brother and his wife joined us for a week of R&R on the beach. The cottage is located along the Cabot Trail, which is the famously beautiful coastal road along the edge of the island. You can’t ask for a nicer place to vacation.
To get there, we flew to Halifax and rented a car to drive up the coast into Cape Breton. We were all excited for a road trip! We blasted our favourite east coast tunes along the way, and stopped at our usual rest stop – the Atlantic Superstore in Antigonish – to stock up on essentials like Cheerios, mustard and marshmallows. It was going to be a good week!
We rolled into the cottage mid-afternoon and spent the rest of the day catching up with the family and enjoying fresh fish and chips for dinner.
The week was filled with visiting, sightseeing, swimming and eating. Plenty of lobster, of course, although I have discovered that I prefer crab. Also plenty of beer and goods from the local bakery. (Yeah, we all put on at least ten pounds that week.)
We did a whale watching tour on our first day, but it was so great it deserves its own post. We also headed up the Cabot Trail almost every day to check out the beaches and trails in the area.
We were in town during the Festivale de l’escaouette, which is an Acadian arts and culture celebration. We did catch a show featuring one of the cousins and his father on guitar. Shameless plug here! It was great music, and even the kids had a good time. The festival ended on the weekend with a parade, most notable for the gobs of candy the kids collected from the floats – it was like Halloween, disgusting toffees included. It would have been better if some of the treats had not been freezies that leaked everywhere, but hey, free candy is free candy. Other floats were for local businesses or VIPs, but with an Acadian twist (i.e. with fiddlers onboard), and of course the fire truck got the most love, bringing up the rear.
During the rest of the week, we went swimming as much as we could at the beach, which, other than being a bit chilly, was great fun. In fact, we had so many beach days, it too deserves its own post. Stay tuned for that. We also had a couple of great dinners out, including one where I stuffed myself on the fruits of the sea until I thought I would be sick. We also enjoyed a few cookouts at the firepit at B’s brother’s hotel – including one night where we literally outran a sheet of rain coming at us from across the harbor.
Overall our visit was the perfect cap to a long few weeks of travel. At the end of our stay, we drove back to Halifax filled with love and lobster, begrudgingly ready to hop on a plane (or two, or four) and face the real world again.